recovery

Worrying and Self-Doubt

 

https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/depression/10-depression-quotes-that-may-change-your-life/

Well, it has been an interesting week. I finally have a few days off to do what I like which is nice. I have a hard time when I get stressed from doing too many things and sometimes I react to it by sleeping way too much. I know this wreaks havoc on my system and makes it very hard to function in line with the world of the normal people. So many good things have been happening to me, but I know that things won’t stay good for me if I can’t do something about my excessive sleeping.

I feel really blessed today because I was contacted by the City of Edmonton and asked if I could come and give a talk about mental health at the Edmonton Public Library. On Monday I will be just finishing up a six-week contract to teach creative writing and there are many other opportunities coming my way. Still, for some reason, I find a need to worry. One of the big things that I worry about is money. Every now and then I work or do some photography and make a few extra bucks, but then it seems that the money just runs away from me. I am at a point now where I have savings to at least get me through one month of difficulties, but I keep thinking about ways I could spend the money on what I deem “more fun” things. There are cameras I would like to buy, I am always thinking of buying a car or taking a trip. It all seems like such a waste and it took so much effort just to have just the small amount of savings I do have.

I also worry sometimes about my ability as a writer. I went to a story slam the other day and really felt outclassed. I was the first reader up and was quickly knocked out of the competition. This is even after winning two story slams last year. Another thing that happened was that I won a contest for a 24-hour short story that got me $300 USD. I took the story and tried to publish it elsewhere but with no luck. I am really feeling the pinch of not having been able to go to University and take creative writing. Fortunately, I have some good friends who help and support me in making my writing as good as I can make it.

One of the things that often gives me comfort when I find myself worrying is doing meditation or taking long walks. I had planned to walk the 2km to the post office today, but the ice and snow and freezing rain was pretty bad so I ended up taking the bus. When I do take the time to meditate, what I often like to do is to read some of my Asian books about spirituality say from the Dalai Lama or ancient writings like Lao Tzu and then just sit, either cross-legged or not, close my eyes and simply try to focus on nothingness, empty space as I count my breath, breathing in and out until a thought comes up that distracts me, then I go back to zero and try to make it to a count of ten. It can be very helpful to take some training in this, I once used to go to a real Tibetan Monk for classes and it was a big help, very healing.

 

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When Sensitivity and Ego Collide

Ahh, it has been such a long time since I sat down to write a proper blog entry. So much has been happening to me. For starters, I have some savings right now but I have too many commitments to take any long trips. It’s funny but for the first time in my life, I have the means and cash to go to London and don’t want to. I may want to go back there in the near future, but for the moment I am happy just to stay in Edmonton. It is likely I will go to Toronto in the summer to visit my wonderful sister and sweet little niece, but that is at the back of my thoughts right now.

This past Friday was quite a shindig. The guy who got me work as a creative writing teacher hired me to MC the 20th-anniversary party for the building I live in and it was amazing. I felt really comfortable for most of the time I was up there and people really seemed to respond to my jokes and the poetry I read. I went to sleep that night feeling like my world was spinning and I was trying to hang onto it by spewing out a few choice words into a microphone.

What I am starting to slowly realize is that though my medications deal with a large portion of my symptoms, I still have a mental illness and stress, fatigue, emotion and contact with the outside world can affect it. Tonight was my Humanities 101 course at the University of Alberta and I found myself being hyper-sensitive to others and the things they said and did. I put my hand up a few times to ask questions and I got the impression that the instructor was getting frustrated. Then some guy sitting behind me tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I could ‘please’ pull my shirt down. That kind of pissed me off and it felt like it ruined a good night of learning and debate but I thought about things for a while and realized that I was the one wanting to be in control, that I don’t like it when people show their unwholesome body parts in public and that my ego was telling me that this person, though just as valuable as me or any other person had no right to tell me anything. So here I am at home now, playing some relaxing music, sipping a cup of ‘sleepytime’ brand tea and honestly considering an early night and a ‘take as needed’ pill that will help me rest. Well, that’s about it for now, folks. Thanks for tuning in. I will do more VLOGs as time allows. In the meantime, stay real!

The Trap of Mental Illness and Disability Benefits: Do You Want To Risk It?

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               A View of Downtown Edmonton From Outside My New Apartment

     Hi, I wanted to talk a little about disability benefits today.  This is a senstive topic for many reasons.  One of the big ones, as I know a good deal of my readers are from the United States, is that people on Welfare or even Social Security Benefits are looked down upon.  The tax burden on Americans is great, plus the cost of health care and this ends up worsening the problem from both ends.  People with mental illnesses are faced with costs that can’t be managed for medications, hospital treatment, doctors, housing and on and on.  The way the American system seems to be set up to work is that each person is responsible for themselves, and when someone has a severe mental illness, this can be just about impossible.  I can recall being in the US and simply knowing a guy who applied for foodstamps and then discussing it with an older gentleman and he literally stopped talking to me after we had travelled together for 3 days.  It seemed a harsh judgement and pretty ignorant, but this is the way many people down there think and there are valid reasons for this attitude.  I feel very fortunate to live in Canada and to have a disability benefit program plus health care and on top of that I get heavily subsidized housing and free fitness and leisure access.  It almost seems like paradise, but it definitely has its drawbacks.  One of them is that if I do go out and get a job, I have to limit my income to less than a minimum wage job or lose my benefits completely.  With the cost of psychiatric medications this would be a staggering blow.  At the present point I’m at I don’t honestly know if I could hold down a full-time job for any length of time, but I also don’t want to live the rest of my life with no improvements in my standard of living.

Some 27 years ago I found myself in a homeless shelter, mentally ill and penniless due to prolonged hospital admissions.  There were very few options left for me and so I made an application to join the military.  This would have provided me health benefits, an income, and a purpose in my life.  My application process was interrupted by a fight with my dad that sent me to the shelter, and I decided that since I was working towards something that I could do something I thought was unthinkable-I would apply for welfare benefits.  I will never forget the words of the social worker when I applied, as she looked up from the forms she was filling out for me, “Don’t get caught in the trap.”  I think she meant more along the lines of the trap of drug abuse or alcoholism and circle of poverty.  But whatever she meant, due to my mental illness, I was never able to join the military, and I later failed a concerted attempt to complete commercial pilot school, and was unable to hold down a full-time job.  For me the trap wasn’t in getting money for nothing, it was in that every time I tried to do something, either I was told I was ineligible as a person with a mental illness, or that I would try and do a job set before me and the incredible pressure of working up to acceptable standards was simply too much.  I was caught in a trap, and in some ways I still am.

Things are improving in my life though, I have found a part-time job that I am good at and that I enjoy.  I give talks to students about mental illness for the Schizophrenia Society, and I have written a number of books.  The books give me little income, but together I manage to put food on the table.  One thing I often think about is that despite that numerous times I went over the brink into madness, I now have a good life with stable housing and income and something to do, but I have a lot of regret that I have no life partner.  This is another trap that people with mental illnesses have to be aware of, the isolation factor, and it has a lot to do with receiving benefits.  If you don’t have to force yourself to get up and get out and look for work, you may just sit inside and watch TV and never care if you have friends or a significant other, and years will fly past and a person will have nothing but regrets.  One of the reasons that people end up isolated like this besides recieving benefits is that there is a lot of stigma surrounding mental illness.  One thing with me is that I used to try and hide the fact that I have a diagnosed illness, but now I am very forward about it.  So many people, when you stop trying to hide things, will tell you they suffer, they have a family member or close friend that suffers.

Anyhow, a lot of that is beside the point I was trying to make.  How do you avoid the trap that going on benefits causes?  You may not be able to, but you can make your life as full as possible.  I always like to say that the first thing you need to do with a mentally ill person is get them proper treatment, proper medications.  Then you need to take some therapy that will help you understand yourself.  After that, a life skills course or Wellness Recovery Action Plan course can help a great deal.  From there, even if it just means taking one course, get some school under your belt.  While you are doing this, find ways to keep fit and healthy, in what you do with your body and what you put in it.  Quit smoking if you smoke.  Then, try and find work, even part-time.  Spend as little as possible, and save, and keep taking your medications, work on your mental health on an ongoing basis, and before you know it, you may forget you ever were sick.  It isn’t an easy process, and it isn’t a simple one, but it is one that is worthwhile.  I like to keep telling people that you need to have goals and direction, specific ones.  “I want a bachelor’s degree in six years.” would be an excellent one.  “I want to be stabilized and back working in two years, earning enough to drive a car and rent my own apartment.” is another good one.  Once you have goals, you have a direction to move in, and if you are having a hard time, you can end up feeling so much better about yourself from just working a little bit each day towards your goal.  Take care Dear Readers!

Mental Health and Life Management With a Poem To Entice You

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                This is a photo I took with a special close-up lens.  Photography can be so rewarding and fun

Today’s Poem:

All We Really Have

 

Take a moment now and stop and stare

At the green glow of summer everywhere

White whispy clouds and deep blue sky

Don’t stay inside where you will surely die

Venture out under the sunshine all you dare

 

Summer may be coming near it’s end

And it does become harder to pretend

We won’t miss the sun again this year

 

Soon frozen winter hands will encroach

All the outdoor spaces and places we love the most

Are all our happy, carefree days simply done?

 

It saddens my heart, my mind, my soul

That we must now make toil our only goal

Until once more the outdoors are warm and sublime

 

Through the colder months of wind and snow

We get older as the young children grow

Pausing only to mark the birth of Christ

 

And then in Springtime as the flowers bloom

We fast and try to comprehend the doom

Of the only truly loving one who never sinned

 

Then once more our thoughts turn to different things

Such as the pain and joy a family brings

But not a man or woman regrets it for a moment

 

Because no matter how much I will lament with this pen

The Summer sun will be here again

To turn our sad faces to smiling happy bursts of light

 

But yes even then we will soon forget

That for each hour of joy we owe a debt

Of an hour of ice wind and snow

 

And when those times come upon the land

I think our Lord God understands

We need to sleep in curled up and warm now and then

 

And to cuddle close as we watch TV into the night

As lonely others pass and envy our light

That comes not from TV or light bulbs at all

 

I just ask that you heed me a little and hold close to your heart

As we wait for this precious summer to depart

Those who have shared your life with you from the start

And those who pierced you with cupid’s dart

For all in all love is all we really have

 

Today’s Blog:

Good day my fine readers and friends!  I have to say though the poem I wrote has a touch of sadness to it, I had one of the best days ever today.  My sister is in town with her husband and my niece and she threw a party for her old friends and our family and I had an amazing time.  It was one of the best parties I have gone to for many reasons.  One of them was that my sister’s friend Steve was there and he was a good friend of my sister’s when I was just a 12 year-old kid and as I sat listening to my sister and him talk it reminded me of the many things that I am so grateful for with regards to my sister, that she really works very hard to help people and has huge wellsprings of compassion in her heart, mind, and soul.  For a long time I just saw her as kind of an angry person, but when she was with her friends I guess her guard was let down and she was able to talk about some of the humanitarian efforts she makes like when she taught literacy in a penitentiary and how she now teaches mentally challenged students.  I had a fun time with my niece too, she is an amazing girl and we laughed ourselves sick at the ‘Instagram’ face-swapping app she used to take pictures of all of us.

All that aside, I have still been trying to keep up with my work.  I don’t know how many people out there have read my books, I have had a friend who has given me the incredibly kind offer of helping to edit and re-work the book “Inching Back To Sane” which has some good content but is in dire need of better organization and maybe a few other things.  I am also working on a manuscript of short stories that the well-known Canadian author Richard Van Camp is going through for me right now.  I feel so blessed that I have been able to win three cash prize contests and make the short list of a fourth.  September will actually be the first time a story of mine has been chosen for regular publication in “The Canadian Tales of the Heart Short Story Contest”  (in case you want to look it up in September, the title of the short story is “Sandra: A Love Story.”

All in all, I have been finding in the past few years that my forties are the best years of my life.  I have gotten over all that boyhood shyness, I don’t feel any more like I am some second class person in older company, I have developed skills that help me to thrive and I have not only overcome addictions but I have learned many ways to manage the money that my addictions were costing me.  This may seem funny, but in a large way this relates to suicide and how sad it is.  If young people who felt their life wasn’t going to get any better and that killing themselves was their only option, I have to say that if you stick to your guns, keep working hard, never give up on yourself and more, there truly is a much better life ahead.  Of course this also makes me think of the homeless people and how hard it must be to have nowhere to feel safe and to sleep through the night.  Even if they get a job (which is extremely difficult if you are dirty and ragged) it seems like such an impossible task to save the money required for a room or apartment on top of all the other needs a person must have.  What breaks my heart even worse is when you see people using needles and you just know that they are extremely addicted and likely infected with HIV or Hepatitis.  I don’t know what I can do, I do little tiny, minuscule things like giving people a few bucks, buying a person the odd sandwich, but there is so much need out there for these people to be helped.  All I really have is words.  They say the pen in mightier than the sword, maybe if I can truly master this craft of writing I could somehow change the way people look at the homeless and truly do something significant.  Anyhow, I think I am going to attach another photo below, I hope you have enjoyed your blog experience for August 5th!

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This is a building called “The Admiralty Arch” which leads a person from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace.  I am so happy that I took this vacation, I am tempted to go there again already.

Mental Health and Poetry With a Couple of Photographs

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Another Shot From My Day Trip To Jasper With My Dad.  So Beautiful There.

Check out today’s blog entry after today’s poem

First Responders

 

So long as heroes who make sacrifice are given due fame

So long as proud men and women seek the light

The human race will always be a worthwhile game

 

No one in the world is alone to blame

In the end the winners will be in the right

So long as heroes who make sacrifice are given due fame

 

Some evil people count destruction as their only aim

But as long as good people always keep up the fight

The human race will always be a worthwhile game

 

Raise up a cheer for those who carry the flame

By their acts they give the blind new sight

So long as heroes who make sacrifices are given due fame

 

Some feel the only good in life is gain

But our salvation still shines bright

The human race will always be a worthwhile game

 

Each of our heroes may not quite be the same

But on all of them shines a holy light

So long as heroes who make sacrifice are given due fame

The human race will always be a worthwhile game

 

Leif Gregersen

July 23, 2016

     Hello to everyone out there who faithfully keeps up with my blog.  I don’t really have a lot of profound words for you today.  I am lavishing in the memories of London, England from my June trip, it really was amazing.  I have been thinking about the Imperial War Museum which used to be a mental hospital.  I think it is kind of fitting to have such a place to commemorate war, it seems to be such an awful, crazy thing.  I had a near death experience not too long ago and it reminded me of my own mortality.  I fell off my bike on a steep trail and got knocked around pretty badly, even bit a good chunk out of my tongue and got the wind knocked out of me so it was impossible to breathe for a little while.  I wondered at that moment if I would ever breathe again.  I sure didn’t expect life would be this good or that I would be this frail at 44.  I remember as a kid reading about men in their 70’s doing these incredible feats, and I don’t doubt I could still do some things, but there are a lot of things I can’t do.  As a result of taking medications and my hands shaking, just about anything that requires a steady hand is impossible.  The medication also affects my balance and my memory.  My doctor and his staff are aware of all of these side effects, but we also agree that I am much better off with these problems than I would be if I weren’t on a medication that stabilized my mood and kept me from experiencing psychosis.  It is so hard to describe what psychosis is like.  You hear things, you think things, little things that happen seem to have huge significances, and you get a lot of irrational ideas in your head.  It is scary to think of how far gone I was during my last visit to the hospital.  I will never forget experiencing this horrible feeling of depression and restlessness and looking at a tile pattern on the floor and somehow my brain mixed it around and turned it into a vision of Nazi Germany and all the horrors they perpetrated. It may seem really odd, but it would make sense to someone who has experienced such things.

I don’t want to dwell too much on all that, actually this has been a great week.  I participated in a story slam, where you put in $5 and get to go on stage and read a 5 minute story and up to ten people can read and at half time they pass a hat which everyone puts $5 into.  The stories are judged and the highest score gets all the cash in the hat.  I went home the proud winner of $100 which isn’t huge, but enough to make a nice difference in my monthly budget.  It is funny to think of how much effort it took me to write the story, edit the story, prepare myself to read it and all of that.  Then it took tremendous effort just for me to get out of bed and walk the 2 miles to the place where the event was taking place.  I really didn’t want to go, I had no faith in my story or my abilities, and I didn’t want the stress of going there and going up on stage, but somehow I did it.

It was good to win that, but stress is eating a hole in me right now.  I am supposed to be moving this week and I still haven’t gotten word that my suite is ready.  I was really hoping to get out of this place I live in now and be done with it, but I just may have to stay another month which will cause all kinds of problems.  And then, constantly, I am bombarded with these thoughts, memories of my past where I play negative things over and over in my head.  Somehow I muddle through though and get things done.  I am now a paid blogger for healthyplace.com and I wrote my blog and recorded my video today for them.  Next step is just to post my blogs and then invoice them for my pay.  It is kind of cool.  That is what is great about being in your 40’s (I’m 44) there are so many little things you learn to do to cope with life.  I can’t imagine life without all my little jobs here and there.  Anyhow, that is my life for one more week, I appreciate you all following me, and as a token of that appreciation, I am going to post another photo just below.

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A Journey Through The Looking Glass

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Beautiful shot of a little friend at the park near Westmount and Ross Sheppard High

 

Follow this link to read the short story I wrote which won me first prize out of 500 contestants in a 24-hour short story contest!       Leif’s Winning Story

Here is today’s poem:     (please scroll past the poem to read today’s blog)

 

One Simple Moment

I never thought my dreams could all come true

And my greatest dream was just laying next to you

 

A simple life, a home, a car, a chld

Having it with you would have been so wild

 

But at the worst time that I could, I made a bad mistake

And when I tried to win you back it all seemed so fake

 

Life has a way of working out for the best

Even when it seems we’re being put to the test

 

I lost my perfect lover perfect wife

So I decided to take a new look at my life

 

Posessions I thought I once wanted more than anything

Meant nothing when you wouldn’t wear my ring

 

And so I sought long and hard to fill the hole

That was left in me when you were no longer my goal

 

The simple poet’s life is now what I seek

Precious moments sitting meditating by a creek

 

Love is still but goal but of a different kind

Love from the heart of hearts the soul of the mind

 

I have many friends now who love my words and work

I’m so far past the man you knew who could often be a jerk

 

I’m not writing this to convince you to return

I just hope you can see these words and somehow learn

 

Life isn’t just a race from birth to death

Stop your ambitious striving open your mind and take a breath

 

I pray that in this moment you will see

Though I have always loved you I am now free

 

Striving for things will never satisfy a forlorn soul

Let life’s beautiful and simple things be your goal

  

Leif Gregersen

May 31, 2016

 

Well, Dear Readers, I have to say I am kind of flying on a cloud today.  Some weeks ago I entered a short story contest where you are given a prompt to write from and you have 24 hours to come up with the best story you can.  Yesterday the winners were announced and to my incredible surprise I came in first!  Living with a mental illness, a person often gets discouraged.  I have to admit that when I entered this contest I thought very little of it, I was entering just to help sharpen my skills, I didn’t even think I would place in the top 50.  But somehow I managed to write something special that stood out among the pack.  I have won things before, a few years back I won a short story contest put on by a local book chain for which I got $250 in book credit, a prize I loved getting.  Even this Spring I was awarded honorable mention in a serious contest and though I only got $25 for my placement, I was awarded publication and a nice plaque I hung on the wall.

Winning this contest really couldn’t have come at a better time.  I have been working a new job for three months and I just found out the magazine is not going to be in production anymore and that there is no time frame on when I will get paid.  This came just as I am about to leave on a trip overseas.  Luckily I had some savings and other resources or I would have had to cancel.  I don’t know what relevance all this has to people with a mental illness, I actually have been learning a lot from the boss I no longer am working for.  He said in a course he produced himself called “The Bright Futures Program” that unless a person finds something to do they will continue to be in and out of the hospital for the rest of their days.  It can be really hard, sometimes a person does their best to take medications but so many things sidetrack them.  Even peer pressure is a factor, I had a cousin who tried to convince me that pot would cure my bipolar rather than lithium which was preposterous.  It is almost likely that pot was a trigger for my illness, someone with a family history of mental illness (or anyone whose brain has not yet fully grown) shouldn’t touch the stuff, this is information right from Doctors who have spent years specializing in the brain.  But along with peer pressure, there are many reasons people stop their medication, though I think the most important one is that they perceive their life as better without their pills.  I honestly think though, if a person slowly pushes themselves back towards being functional, taking pills will be something they want to do to keep their good mental health despite side effects or other problems.

How can a person do this?  I started with bowling.  I loved to bowl and was fairly good at it.  I soon found that when I worked out a bit, be it a short swim, a long walk or weights, I got better at bowling.  I admit that now I don’t bowl nearly as much as I would like, but other hobbies have taken over.  I have always loved photography and my Dad and I started going and getting pictures of wildlife in parks (as you may have seen above).  I kept getting better and better cameras and now I enter contests and sometimes even get paid up to $50 an hour to take photos for people.  Would I chance that opportunity to have incredible photography equipment, make good money and do what I love because there are some side effects to my pills?  No way!  I hope that anyone who is going through this problem can see me as a person who slowly worked his way up to something and did it by listening to his Doctors, his treatment team and worked hard to make a good life and a good future for himself.  As always, though it seems no one out there reads this blog to the end, I want to be here for anyone who wants to talk.  Feel free to email me at viking3082000@yahoo.com and let’s be careful out there!

Leif Gregersen

The Birds Are Returning and There Is a Song In My Heart

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                      This Beautiful Little Flier Came To Help Me Enjoy My Breakfast This Morning

please scroll past today’s poems (Haiku) to see today’s blog

 

Spring Haiku

By: Leif Gregersen

 

Brilliant fields of green

Summer trips to mountain peaks

Finally it is Spring

 

Time to love and smile

Linger in the park a while

All too short a time

 

Cycle all day long

Stop to contemplate a pond

Beauty like nowhere

 

My heart sings at night

Seeing the Northern Lights

Sky carry me home

 

Little bits of words

Gentle longing to be heard

Mourn the loves we lost

  

One thing understood

This land is perfect and good

Love those who share it

Today’s Blog Post:

Hello to all my loyal followers.  It has been a fair time since I have posted anything.  I haven’t felt much in the mood for writing poetry, I have been very busy.  At the moment I am settling into a new job as the Editor of two magazines that deal with mental illness, called SZ and Anchor.  The job itself isn’t too difficult, but I have been pushing myself to learn all I can about mental health issues doing research online, taking a course that my new employer has put together about recovering from an illness.  Here and there I have also been doing some presentations for the Schizophrenia Society.  Just the other day I had to go give a talk to about 40 police recruits and it was actually a wonderful experience.

I can’t say enough about all the things that have been happening and how great they are.  I have always wanted to travel to the Maritimes, which is the East Coast of Canada, and my boss has made a commitment to send me to a conference in Halifax, all expenses paid.  I am also going to be travelling to Toronto in the summer for two weeks and it looks like it will be an exciting year.  Whenever I travel, I am reminded of my trip to Hawaii.  I stayed in a traveller’s Hostel then, but it was a fairly nice one.  They had air conditioning, cooking facilities and they were very close to Waikiki Beach.  There was no feeling in the world like not being able to sleep and having the option to go take a dip in the ocean to clear my head and tire myself out a bit.  Toronto and Halifax will be different, but likely no less exciting.

One thing I was concerned about was the stress involved with my work and such things as a short story manuscript I have submitted in hopes of getting it published.  The amazing thing is that not only do I have a great boss who suffers from a mental illness as well, but I really like doing what I do (being an editor).  It isn’t a massive salary, but it will suffice for my needs and there is a chance that I can get some other work giving presentations and holding poetry or creative writing workshops to supplement my income.  All I can say about this is to repeat what I am learning in the course my new boss has laid out, called “The Bright Future Program” by Bill MacPhee, is that you have to be persistent, you have to find something you love, you have to work towards getting opportunities and be able to ask people for help, you need a good work ethic and there is almost no end to what you can accomplish, whether you have an addiction or mental health issue or you are just not satisfied with your life.

Well, I will leave off there.  There may be some of you out there who want more information about this program, and some who either suffer from a mental health issue or have a family member who does, I would encourage you to write to me.  There is a good chance I will have a place in one of our magazines to tell your story, we do pay contributors, and I am always willing to help people with mental health issues in any way I can.  Email me at viking3082000@yahoo.com and stay happy, stay healthy!

Leif Gregersen

Recovery Through Persistence and Fun

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Yes, my friends, worst fears have been realized!  I have become a comic book collecting nerd again and I’ve never been happier!  This shot was from a collector convention I recently attended

Scroll past today’s poem for today’s blog!

 

Who You Are

Do you think that you could come and crawl
Inside of me for just a moment

Look out through my own eyes
To see yourself for the very first time

Looking who you really are
With the eyes of another

It makes me think that you would understand
That so many things can change

Maybe it would inspire you
To lose a little weight

Remember more often to wash your hair
Wipe that little residue from the corner of your mouth

And stop
And stop

Insulting who I really am
Every chance you get

But I suppose that’s all too much to hope for
I can’t really ask you to change so much

But I was hoping if you did that you would see
Despite those things I love you all the same

Leif Gregersen
March 25, 2016

 

Hello Dear Readers!  This has been a great week for me.  As some may know, I am now the editor of two online magazines dealing with mental health (SZ and Anchor) and it is incredibly rewarding not only to work in the field I have chosen as a career, but also to work in something that I strongly believe in, which is mental health support and awareness.

I wish I could give my readers some message of how I got to the position where I am, but I think a lot of what I want to say has been said before.  Instrumental in me doing as well as I am is simply my housing arrangements.  I have been living in supportive housing for some time and with some supervision and help managing my life I have been able to live relatively stress free and been able to pursue some of these goals such as writing.

One of the things my new boss at the magazine, an incredible man named Bill MacPhee who has overcome schizophrenia talks about is that when you have an illness you have to be persistent.  I totally agree with this, it is so important to keep trying to succeed at whatever you want to do.  Some people with mental illnesses have lowered abilities and hence lowered goals, but the rule still applies.

It was funny, but a huge turning point in my writing career came from the strangest source.  I was at the house in the project I live in where we prepare our meals and there was this man named Bobby there.  Bobby always seemed to be angry and people had told me he didn’t like living there.  But one day I happened to find out that he had gone to journalism school and I asked him how he got magazines to run his writing.  In a short and simple conversation, Bobby kindly explained how to contact a magazine editor with a query and get an assignment.  Within the next few years I had been published all over North America and had made a fair bit of spending money thanks to simply not treating Bobby at face value.

There are many things to be learned by giving people respect and being interested in the things they do.  I feel that just about everyone has something to teach us, something to give us, and of course, being social creatures, just about everyone has the potential to be a friend.

So anyhow, I think I was talking about persistence.  Something I try to do is to write something each and every day.  Not everyone is destined to be a writer, but especially in the case of people living with a mental illness, it can be so important to keep a journal, a record of your thoughts and whatever you want to write down.  This is something for you, you never need to show it to anyone.  My mom used to keep one and she started out by recording how her mood was for that day and then talked (to herself in writing) about the things that were working in her mental health journey and such.  It can be very healing, and if you do ever decide to write something, the skills you will learn expressing yourself in your journal will carry through.

Living with a mental illness can be extremely difficult.  There are times when I really feel my medication isn’t working.  It is so important to have someone to talk to in these times.  This is why another thing I like to stress for a person with a mental illness is that they have strong friendships.  It might even be a good idea for that friend to be a fellow sufferer (or psychiatric ‘survivor’ as some say).  It may not always be best to dump all of your difficulties on this person, but if you have a friend you can talk to on a regular basis, there is always that ability to get together and talk or watch a movie or sports game and distract yourself, get out of your ‘head’ for a little while.  If you are able to do that with one or two close friends, you will find yourself dwelling less on the negatives.

One very powerful tool I have in my recovery toolkit is meditation.  I have actually heard that people who use meditation on a regular basis can actually reclaim lost areas of their physical brains, that it is a healing and regenerating process.  All I really do when I meditate is sit quietly and count my breathing from one to ten.  I close my eyes and as I count to ten, I simply try to focus on an object that has some meaning to me (some may use a ‘buddha’ statue) and keep my mind clear.  If thoughts about money or worries or anything start to come up, I just gently start my count over and try to focus.  Sometimes I can get lost in this process and sit for more than half an hour, almost unaware of time.  When I am done I end up feeling really good, it relieves stress, it clears your thoughts, there are many benefits.

Well, Dear Readers, I will leave off at that for now.  As always, I am open to any questions or concerns, complaints or anything you like, simply send me an email at viking3082000@yahoo.com and I will do my best to get back to you.  Have a great day!

Leif Gregersen

It Can Be A Long, Long Road But A Beautiful One

DSC_0077          This is a photo I have used before (sorry, something wrong with the upload feature) which is a sunny Spring day in beautiful Jasper National Park

Today’s Poem:  ( scroll down past this for today’s blog ) and don’t forget to look up my book, “Inching Back To Sane” on smashwords.com.  This award-winning memoir is just $3.25 US for download.

 

And Yet Time Marches On

 

First we are born and then we crawl

Time marches on

 

Then comes school and that harsh love withdrawl

The clock ticks on

 

The years fly past

So very fast

We near sunset and yet

We’ll go the distance and forget

Time marches on

 

Teen years come they’re oh so dear

Close friends are always near

And the very thing we fear

Graduation where our mothers shed a tear

And time ticks on

 

Those were the best days of our life

Then we face the world of hate and strife

Cut away teen privilege with a butter knife

Leave our childhood behind as man and wife

Time ticks along

 

It’s just like a treadmill race

Too hard to get off and face disgrace

Work hard to just stay in one place

Lost years will never be erased

Soon time is gone

 

With some love and a little work

Grown up kids won’t think dad is still a jerk

Even though you never really would

You wish to slap away that smug little smirk

Gone is the light that shone

 

Nowadays all of your hair is grey

You have forgotten how to laugh or play

Everything is the same day after day

And years simply slip away

Time passes on

 

But then a hope of happiness and love comes back

Shortly after your first heart attack

You find that one little thing you lacked

Tickling your grandchild’s tummy as they coo and laugh

 

Life will pass on

 

 

Leif Gregersen

February 28, 2016

 

This poem is dedicated to my Bestefa, Kristen Gregersen born on February 29, in the 19th century.

Good day dear readers.  I had actually wanted to upload a photo of one of my sisters dogs and then talk a little about pets and pet therapy.  I guess I can just ramble a bit about how things have been going instead.  First off, I am now one step further towards not needing to be on a disability pension.  I had been contacted by the owner of Magpie Media, which publishes two online magazines “Anchor” and “SZ” and he had me write about six or seven articles for him.  He was so impressed by my work and the things I can do (one of them being maintain a blog) that he has hired me as a salaried editor of both magazines, I signed the contract the other day.  In other news, today I got back a manuscript I was having a friend edit for me which was a compilation of 14 short stories.  The friend is a well known author whose first novel was both a bestseller and a feature film and he had given me a strong thumbs up on nine of them.  I will have to do a bit of work on the others, maybe even trash a couple, but I think there is a good chance that this collection may be my first conventionally published work.  I find writing so rewarding, it is really amazing.  I hope some of you have read one of my books.  I am transferring the ebooks over to smashwords.com but the paperback versions are available on amazon.com or any chapters, coles or indigo store in Canada.  Just walk right in and type “Leif Gregersen” into their computer and six of my books will come up which you can order in.

So anyhow, I have also been working for the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta.  I go around to classes of various kinds and give presentations about mental illness.  I start with a power point presentation and then I give about a 15 minute speech about my own experiences.  One of the things I kind of wanted to stress today is that for those of you who may be youth or young and things seem bad, I really want you to dig deep down, tie a knot in the rope you are at the end of and hang on.  I had a lot of troubles when I was younger, but bit by bit, year by year things got to be so much better for me, and I have to say that I was pretty damn messed up for a while.  I am almost aghast to say this but when I was put in the hospital the first time for psychosis my dad took my prized posession, my .22 rifle away from me and sold it and gave me the money.  I really needed the money but that rifle was everything to me.  I used to love going out and hunting and shooting targets.  I had become really accustomed to it and it started to feel for me like a soldier’s rifle that has become a part of him.  I was mad he sold it, but I still had my gun license and I had actually planned to buy a semi-automatic assault rifle I found in a pawn shop and rob a bank with it.  I just wasn’t thinking clearly.  Mind you, it was very hard to get myself back into good mental shape and I went through years and years of suffering and poverty, but I have come out the other side and it feels wonderful.  I have these incredible memories of concerts I worked at, of going to Hawaii and to Toronto and now life is really falling into place for me.  It worried me that I have a problem dealing with stress, but I have found some strategies to cope.  First off, I had my Psychiatrist put me on an anti-depressant called “Trazadone” and it has lifted my mood a bit and helps me to sleep.  Getting a good sleep at night is a huge thing.  Then I am trying to be careful not to work too much, which may get harder with my new position, but if I have to cut out one of my other part-time jobs completely, I will do it.  Self-care is so important.  So sleep, relaxation/decompression time.  I also have been trying to spend more time each day in prayer and meditation.  And I have filled out forms for a low-income gym membership with the city of Edmonton and I plan to do some dog paddling and hot tub sitting.  For now I just take a lot of hot baths and showers.  I hope some of this helps people who read my blog, it would be great if anyone who does read it gets back to me.  You can message me here, or on Facebook, or email my main email at viking3082000@yahoo.com  I hope all of you have a great week!

Working Towards a Better Understanding

DSC_0136

What an amazing day I had today.  Thanks to being set up as a member of the mental health writer’s guild, I have added ten new followers in just one day.  That means a lot, especially if I can somehow help even one of those people.  My thanks go out to everyone who signed up to be notified of my new posts.

It hasn’t even been a day since I posted my last blog, but I had a few things I felt would be good to talk about.  For  a long time I have been working as a stage hand for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, and though the work is getting difficult as I age, I think I would have a hard time not continuing with this work because I have so many amazing friends there.

Tonight my job was to set up and tear down the stage for Black Sabbath, but the concert was cancelled just a few hours before show time.  I don’t know how they managed to let everyone know about this, I am sure there were literally thousands of hugely disappointed fans, but none of them were at the venue to complain or riot.  Maybe it has to do with how polite Canadians are.

One of the things of note that happened tonight is that I started talking with one of my co-workers and found out he is a writer as well.  We had an interesting talk in between times of having to do things and he shared with me that he had a friend who he is sure is bipolar.  I gave him my business card with the address to this website on it and told him he was welcome to have his friend contact me.  This really amazes me because for many years I thought it was a terrible thing to tell people I have a mental illness, but so many times I am finding, when I do people start to talk about themselves having difficulties, or a family member or friend who has difficulties.  Mental illness is really something that touches all of us and hiding it away on some far off corner of our closet doesn’t help anyone at all.

Something I also wanted to touch on here is self stigma.  This is when a person feels guilty and blames themselves, even harms themselves for their condition.  Many years back, when I first had a serious hospital admission, I had so much guilt.  I had embarrassed myself, my family, lost friends, ruined relationships, lost respect and just about all of my material possessions.  My solution to all of this, as it was around the time of the first Persian Gulf War was to throw away all of my hopes and dreams and to sign up for the military wanting to be killed in battle to restore what I thought I had destroyed through my own fault.  Of course this could have ended in me dying, but fortunately my psychiatric records kept me out of the Canadian Forces.  I still wanted to punish myself though and began running, as much as 50 miles a week.  I ran so much that I did some very serious damage to my knees and became not only psychiatrically disabled, but physically disabled as well.  By some wonderful chance of fate, my knees have healed and I have been able to go back to a normal job and make some money to supplement my disability benefits.  What surprises me though is how a disease of the brain can affect people in such a way that it gets manifested in physical ailments.  One example is that when you take medication, your mouth often gets dry and saliva is a person’s first line of defense against tooth decay.  So, people with bipolor or other disorders often have bad teeth.

Another thing that suprpises me is just the sheer volume of people who have mental health issues, especially when you add in addictions problems, even alcohol dependency.  It is a bit sad to say but if I keep working in the mental health field for the rest of my working days, I will never be out of work.

I hope some of these words can help those who read them.  To the person I spoke to today and to many of the people who are new to this blog, I want to say that a diagnosis of a mental health disorder is not a death sentence and that things can really get better.  Be a proactive patient/consumer/mental health survivor.  Get out and join groups online or in your city where you can meet with others and share your difficulties and triumphs.  Advocate for yourself and for those who are too far gone to have a voice of their own.  If you are just curious about mental health, find books and talk to your family Doctor about it.  The worst thing you can do is suffer in silence.  And, as always, feel free to drop me a line, I can be reached at: viking3082000@yahoo.com and I would love to be able to help you and be your friend.